Jo to the Rescue (by Elinor M Brent-Dyer)

I've been reading and re-reading the Chalet School series by Elinor M Brent-Dyer, off and on, since I was in my teens. Some of the books are rather samey, but I particularly enjoy the earlier ones and also the few that do not, in fact, feature the Chalet School itself.

One such is 'Jo to the Rescue', which has always been one of my top favourites of the series. I have a hardback edition, which I have had for many years, so am quite surprised to find that I had not, apparently, read it for at least twelve years. I rectified that omission a few days ago when I read it in a couple of hours.

It's the story of 22-year-old Phoebe, confined to a wheelchair with rheumatic problems. She lives with her devoted but elderly maid Debby since the loss of her beloved father. So she is delighted when the holiday home nearby is occupied for the summer by four friends and a large number of small children.

One of the women is Jo Maynard, well-known from the Chalet School books. She recognises Phoebe's wistful loneliness. She befriends her and advises her in an ethical problem, as well as providing protection in several ways.

It's quite exciting in places, and also oddly moving. I like the way this book provides a break in the school stories, and gives more of an insight into Jo and her great friends Simone, Marie and Frieda as young mothers. It's set during World War II, which explains why the husbands are absent (other than Jo's husband Jack, who is a doctor).

Definitely recommended to anyone who likes this kind of book, written in the middle of the 20th century for teenage girls but with more adult interest than most of the Chalet School series. Not currently in print, sadly; the Armada edition is not as good as the hardback, and is still usually very expensive. I hope that 'Girls Gone By' will re-publish it before long.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 4th July 2011

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